Implicit psychophysiology: Effects of common beliefs and idiosyncratic physiological responses symptom reporting


  • We are indebted to Tim Wilson, Bella DePaulo, Darren Newtson, Steve West, and the reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of the paper.

Reprint requests should be addressed to James W. Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, 75275.


Every individual exhibits unique perceptual, behavioral, and physiological responses within and across a variety of settings. Despite the idiosyncratic nature of responses, we seek to establish theories that generalize across a large number of individuals. A strict idiographic method intensively examines the response patterns of a small number of individuals, whereas a nomothetic approach focuses on common responses across a large number of individuals. In the present investigation, we seek to learn how individuals perceive and report physical symptoms and sensations. We offer a methodology that capitalizes on the unique physiological responses of individuals but, at the same time, assumes that the underlying perceptual processes relevant to symptom reporting are comparable across individuals. Our approach, then, is both idiographic and nomothetic. As will be discussed, this integrative approach has the potential to be applied to a multitude of behaviors and processes that are of interest to social and personality psychologists.